Europe

Russia plans state controls in case of internet crisis

  • 22 September 2014
  • From the section Europe
Internet cafe in Yekaterinburg
Image caption Internet cafe in Yekaterinburg: Russians rely on many foreign servers and website hosts

Russia is making plans to ensure state control over the country's internet traffic in a national emergency, Russian media report.

War or an Arab Spring-style uprising would class as such an emergency.

Plans for boosting cyber security are reported to be under discussion in Russia's Security Council. They include a back-up in case Russia is cut off from the internet, Vedomosti news says.

Russia currently relies heavily on foreign hosting of websites.

When asked about the special meeting a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said US and European actions recently "have been marked by a fair degree of unpredictability, and we have to be ready for anything".

Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict now target many senior Russian officials, as well as Russia's oil industry, arms manufacturers and state banks.

Western leaders accuse Russia of destabilising Ukraine by supplying soldiers and heavy weapons to separatist forces there.

Russia's Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said that "recently Russia has come up against the one-sided language of sanctions.

"In these conditions we are working on scenarios in which our respected partners suddenly decide to cut us off from the internet."

In January 2011 the Egyptian state blocked internet traffic inside the country after opposition groups organised protests through social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

Infrastructure changes

Experts interviewed by Vedomosti said a Russian federal body such as Rossvyaz, in charge of communications, could take over as administrator of internet domains.

Rossvyaz would then have direct control over the country's domains such as those ending in .ru or .rf and service providers in Russia's regions would be subordinate to it.

It is not clear how tighter state control over the web infrastructure in Russia would affect relations with US-based Icann, the organisation that governs internet domains internationally.

Mr Nikiforov said his ministry had held exercises with the defence ministry and FSB intelligence service to prepare for a scenario in which Russia was deprived of internet connections.

Keir Giles, a London-based expert on Russian cyber security, says the FSB has been given new internet surveillance powers since American whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the scale of secret US monitoring of internet traffic.

According to the news website Gazeta.ru, the Russian authorities are also considering bundling the country's internet connections into big nodes which can be monitored more easily.

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